With our wild beaches, deep lochs and romantic castles, it shouldn’t be a surprise that we’ve been voted the most beautiful country in the world by the readers of the popular travel guides Rough Guides (2014). From our mystical, sweeping landscapes to fascinating places to see, Scotland is truly breathtaking.
Scotland, you’re amazing… and amazingly photogenic. Not convinced? Here’s the proof: 20 of our best images we’ve captured in the last 12 months. It’s been a tough choice, but these are our winners:
1. Kilchurn Castle, Argyll
A good image to start on — if you had to conjure an image of Scotland in your mind, it might be this one. There are few more scenic castles in Scotland than Kilchurn. This marvellously evocative ruin sits on the scenic Loch Awe and is gently fringed with thick conifer forests and beautiful oak woods.
2. Bow Fiddle Rock, Moray
Already a top holiday spot for kayakers, the Bow Fiddle Rock in Portnockie looks stunning as the sun shoots its last rays over the coastline. This striking rock is actually part of the huge Cullen quartzite formation. Hike the trails around the area and find your own secret slice of paradise.
3. Luskentyre Sands, Isle of Harris
Scotland could put forward a few candidates for the world’s best beach, but the Outer Hebrides’ Luskentyre Sands is one of the best ever. The sand is white and gorgeous and the sea is a stunning colour; it’s regularly compared to the tropical beaches of the Caribbean.
4. The Calanais Standing Stones, Isle of Lewis
Nothing quite sums up the Scottish mystical feeling you’ll experience in the presence of the Calanais Standing Stones in the Outer Hebrides. These world-famous standing stones are one of the most complete stone circles in Europe. The most atmospheric time to experience them is without doubt at dawn or just after, or at sunset.
5. The village of Crovie, Aberdeenshire
The tiny fishing village of Crovie, tucked between a cliff and the sea, is a great place to get away from the stresses of modern life. You will find no shops, no phone signal and – incredibly – no roads. Enjoy the sea views at Crovie Viewpoint on the cliffs above.
6. The Glenfinnan Monument, near Fort William
The iconic Glenfinnan Monument, with a lone kilted Highlander on top, is a striking tribute to those who fought in the Jacobite Risings. Set amid superb Highland scenery at the head of Loch Shiel, it sits opposite the world-famous Glenfinnan Viaduct. A must-see for any amateur photographer or Instagram addict.
7. Corgarff Castle, Aberdeenshire
Set in glorious seclusion on the edge of the magnificent Cairngorms National Park, Corgarff Castle is perhaps the most unusual of the castles on Scotland’s Castle Trail. View the reconstructed barrack rooms and feel what the atmosphere of barrack life was like at the castle in 1750, when Government redcoats were stationed here – a must for Outlander fans.
8. The Road to Applecross, Ross-shire
The Bealach Na Ba is one of the most famous driving routes in Scotland. Known as the Road to Applecross, the route offers stunning views out across the whole of Wester Ross, the Isle of Skye and the Outer Hebrides. With its tight bends and single track, this road isn’t for the faint hearted but the views from the top are astonishing.
9. Lochau Uaine, Cairngorms National Park
As the legend has it, the mysterious Green Loch in Glenmore Forest Park is green because the local fairies used to wash their clothes in the loch, although some think it might just be due to the trees lying along the loch floor. Either way, we think there is something pretty magical about this loch situated in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park.
10. Loch Linnhe, Fort William
Scotland’s landscape is scattered with mist-shrouded hills and Munros, including the mighty Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest peak. This dark moody picture reveals the size and scale of ‘the mountain with its head in the clouds’ with the houses in the distance. Impressive, isn’t it? The abandoned fishing boat is on the shore of Loch Linnhe in Corpach, near Fort William.
11. Rannoch Moor, Perthshire
Often referred to as one of the last remaining wildernesses in Europe, the boggy moorland area of Rannoch Moor is a great place from which to admire the fiery Scottish sunsets. The most striking thing about the moor? Probably its remoteness – think of an uninhabited land of peat bogs, lochs and heather hillocks. Still, so stunning!
12. The National Wallace Monument, Stirling
Snow-capped mountains provide an impressive backdrop to the famous National Wallace Monument in Stirling where you’ll feel like you have stumbled into a fairytale. Follow the story of Scottish patriot and martyr, Sir William Wallace. This national landmark is a place where you can touch and feel centuries of history.
13. Bracklinn Falls, near Callander
The captivating Bracklinn Falls on the River Keltie near Callander have mesmerised people for generations, including Queen Victoria. Situated in a beautiful wooded gorge, you can admire them from the viewpoint suspended right above the cascade.
14. Kinnaird Head Castle, Aberdeenshire
We might not have got the monopoly on castles, but some of Scotland’s surely must be amongst the most unusual structures in the world, like Kinnaird Head – a fascinating example of a castle-turned-lighthouse. It is part of the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses – come and experience its beautifully preserved keeper’s quarters inside.
15. Kenmore, Perthshire
The beautiful village of Kenmore on Loch Tay is set amongst a wooded area that turns this golden colour in autumn which is a great time for photography. It’s part of the Perthshire Tourist Route, a short but spectacular drive and a tale of non-stop scenery on an epic scale. You’ll want to stop off and take a closer look!
16. Red roof cottage, Ross-shire
Simply splendid, isn’t it? Spend a day roaming hills and mountains in Ardnamurchan, Sunart, Morvern or Knoydart in the Lochaber area of the Highlands or up in the North Highlands, and unplug yourself from the modern world. The sense of freedom and isolation (which is a good thing!) you will feel is indescribable.
17. Inchcailloch Island, Loch Lomond
Inchailloch is magical, whatever the season. In spring, the island is carpeted in bluebells, while in autumn, the leaves change colour and you can hear sounds of the rutting deer echo through the trees. As part of the Loch Lomond National Nature Reserve, it’s a wonderful place to visit due to its abundance of flora and fauna.
18. Loch Lomond
Could there be anything nicer than enjoying the wonders of Loch Lomond? It’s not unusual to experience peace and quiet, whilst spotting wildlife and exploring the beautiful landscapes. Relax amongst the natural beauty of the lochs and breathe in the air of the hills. A couple of hours of climbing will reward walkers with an unparalled sense of achievement and awe-inspiring views from each of these summits.
19. Yesnaby Castle sea stack, Orkney
As soon as you arrive, you can’t fail to admire the beauty and respect the ocean around the Yesnaby Castle sea stacks. Sitting off the west coast of Orkney, this impressive rock formation is a great place to see various sea birds including the oyster catcher. The chances are it will just be you – perfect for budding Robinson Crusoes.
Cliché? Yes, but admit it – the capital is rather lovely. Edinburgh is a photographer’s dream. Whether it’s capturing the excitement of the summer festivals or finding that perfect vantage point to see the sunset or the beautiful cityscape at night – there is no denying that Scotland’s capital is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Rough Guides have also found that Skye is the most beautiful place within Scotland, with their top ten most beautiful places as voted for by Rough Guide’s readers. But what do you think makes Scotland beautiful? Share your favourites with us at our iKnow Community discussion.
Feel free to try and beat our images (if you can) using #scotspirit or #lovescotland. Or simply get on and book that holiday to Scotland.